Cancer Trends - Head & Neck Cancer

Publication date: 
October, 2014
Related staff: 
Dr Paul Walsh (former staff)
Dr Sandra Deady (former staff)
Dr Harry Comber (former staff)
  • The broad category of head and neck cancer incorporates cancers at 17 separate sub-sites in the mouth, pharynx, larynx, salivary glands, middle ear and nasal sinuses. During the period 2010-2012, head and neck cancer accounted for 2.9% of all malignant neoplasms (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), 1.7% in women and 3.9% in men.
  • Tobacco and alcohol are well established risk factors for head and neck cancer. [1]
  • Between 2010 and 2012, the average number of new cases diagnosed each year was 413 in men and 161 in women (ratio 5:2). During the period 2001-2013, the incident rate of new cases increased by approximately 1% per annum in men. During 1994-2013, the rate in women increased at 1.4% per annum.
  • In females, the median age at diagnosis fell significantly from 67 years in 1994-2003, to 63 years in 2004-2013. In males, the median age at diagnosis fell from 64 to 63 years over the same period.
  • In 2011, the risk of developing head and neck cancer up to the age of 74 was 1 in 180 for women and 1 in 62 for men.
  • Between 1994 and 2011 the percentage of all patients who received some form of radiotherapy regimen was fixed at around 67%. Chemo-radiation combination therapy increased substantially from 3% in 1994 to 19% in 2011. The percentage undergoing tumour directed surgery, either as sole treatment or in combination remained fixed at 46-47% over the period.
  • Net survival at 5 years is the proportion who survived cancer in the absence of other causes of death. For all head and neck cancers, net survival at five years increased from 46% to 54% between the periods 1994-1999 and 2006-2011
  • An average of 213 deaths (158 males and 55 females) was recorded annually between 2010 and 2012. Between 1994 and 2012, there was a decline in mortality from H&N cancer in both females (2% annually) and males (1.7% annually)

[1] Hashibe M, Brennan P, Chuang SC, Boccia S, Castellsague X, Chen C, et al. Interaction between tobacco and alcohol use and the risk of head and neck cancer: Pooled analysis in the international head and neck cancer epidemiology consortium. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18:541‐50.

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